Before we created the sova websites: sova for adolescents and young adults and wisesova for parents, we wanted to learn about how adolescents with depression and their parents use social media. In user design, you want to know how someone uses a technology tool currently before you try to modify it. Also, we wanted to know whether or not social media was a good strategy to use to reach young people with depression?
Some of our main findings included that adolescents with depression:
- Like using social media to search out information, for distraction, social connection, and share positive content like quotes or funny videos
- Also use social media in some negative ways like sharing risky behaviors like sneaking out or to compare themselves with others
- When in a bad mood some adolescents would “stress post” or share a negative thought as a status update as a way to get it off their chest or look for social support
- Others would “overshare” or share too much personal information or mundane facts about their lives with the effect sometimes leading to cyberbullying
- Sometimes would feel triggered by posts they would see like of pictures of self-harm
As adolescents got older and got treatment for their depression, they would also change how they used social media in a more positive way. For example, they would send a private message to a friend who had been supportive in the past – versus sending out a Twitter status on a fishing expedition to see who might notice or respond.
These adolescents had a lot of useful information to share about social media and we are happy to share their opinion and observations with the academic world by disseminating this work. I will be talking about this work and related research at two upcoming conferences for clinicians and families:
We hope you can join the SOVA team there!